New Song of the Week: A VOID – “No Rest”

It may be 2019, but the enduring legacies of grunge – especially that of Nirvana – and punk continue to have a significant influence on music. I’ve reviewed a lot of artists and bands who’ve drawn their influences from those two groundbreaking genres, and am pleased to feature another today – a young band called A VOID. With members from both France and the UK, and currently based in London, the attractive female-fronted trio refer to their wild, unorthodox sound as “sonic grunge.”

They claim as their inspiration a decidedly eclectic mix of artists and bands, including the aforementioned Nirvana, as well as Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins, Hole, Kaaris, Babes In Toyland, Patrick Sébastien, Deftones, Silverchair, Björk, Tokio Hotel, Lady Gaga, Céline Dion and even Charles Aznavour! Making the music are Camille Alexander (guitar, lead vocals), Aaron Hartmann (bass) and Marie Niemec (drums, backing vocals).

A VOID2

A VOID released their debut EP Roses As Insides in 2016, when they consisted of Camille and two previous band members. The current lineup released an excellent full-length album Awkward And Devastated in 2018. One of the tracks on that album is “No Rest“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week, as the band just dropped a hilarious and wildly entertaining new video for the song.

Camille’s a terrific guitarist, dazzling us with intricate, melodic riffs of jangly and grimy guitars. Early in the track, her riff calls to mind Nirvana’s “All Apologies” as well as Silversun Pickups’ “Lazy Eye”, but picks up the pace later on when her playing turns more aggressive. Aaron and Marie keep a tight rhythm with their resonant bassline and snappy drumbeats, respectively. Camille’s vocals are really wonderful, with a deep vibrancy that’s youthful, yet worldly, and I love how her French accent shines through. She shrieks “No rest” quite nicely in the frantic punk rock-like final chorus, matching the wailing guitars note for note.

The lyrics speak to the stress and anxieties that stem from relationships, being in a band, and the myriad responsibilities of young adulthood:

Bullshit over bullshit
I’ve lost my drive again
I’m all over the place… ace
Addicted to your sweet words and your belonging
I can’t replace

No Rest
No Rest
No Rest for me x2

Utterly broken
Keeping fading away
Completely wasted
I can’t believe myself

Unstable and insecure I try
Creating like the only way to survive
Holding on to everything as if you died today
All these lines I didn’t write
Now they come chasing me

No Rest
No Rest
No Rest for me x2

The music was so loud
So loud that I can’t hear the thoughts inside my head
The whispering voices
Silence violated

Can’t risk to deny
Responsibilities lie for you to take
Caught up into choices
It’s not my place to make

I wish I was more like you
Disregard and pass on through
I wish I had a clue
Of what I’d get myself into

No Rest
No Rest
No Rest for me

Connect with A VOID:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play

WHALE HOUSE – Album Review: “Clowder”

Whale House Clowder art

Whale House is a psychedelic rock band that got its start in 2007 when Caleb Price and Clayton Brice met while students at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. Sharing a love of both classic 60s counter-culture rock and the 90s alternative/grunge rock of their youth, they quickly bonded and began writing and producing songs together in Clayton’s apartment. Their music combines these two rock influences, while experimenting with structure and timbre to create their own unique modern rock sound. Wanting to take their music to the next level, they moved to the recording studio, where they could benefit from the expertise of a professional production team.

Whale House 2

Between 2009 and 2015 they released three EPs, and in 2016 dropped two singles, “Freeway” and “Think of Me”. That November, they released awesome videos of live performances of “Think of Me” and another of their tracks “Red Sun”. I reviewed those videos, which you can read here. Now, nearly three years later, Caleb and Clayton return with their first full-length album Clowder, which will be available on all streaming platforms September 7th, with CDs and vinyl shipping now.

The songs for Clowder were constructed over the course of a year from (in their own words) “sound bytes flung back and forth through the ether across the 300 miles that now separate Caleb and Clayton.” The album was recorded direct to tape at Drum Farm Studios, a re-purposed organic farm in northwest Wisconsin. With the help of drummer John Richardson, they recorded most of the tracks live as a three-piece to recreate the spontaneity of a live show. Veteran producer Tom Herbers produced and mixed the songs, and John Golden did the mastering.

Into the Bluffs” kicks off Clowder in a big way with a burst of Richardson’s pummeling drumbeats accompanied by melodic piano keys. Layers of fuzzy guitars, bass and more keyboards are soon added as Caleb and Clayton sing with a harmony as near-perfect as any I’ve heard in a while. The lyrics are somewhat ambiguous, but seem to speak to tapping into one’s spiritual being: “Give me a sign. Search yourself and follow me in. Look into the bluffs. Ghosts are gathering in the upper atmosphere. Spirits calmly watch me yeah.

Next up is “Doll“, a dark song inspired by Caleb’s experience spending time in the hospital with his mother while she was in a carbon monoxide poisoning induced coma. “And I know it’s over. I’ll pull the plug and let her go. After it’s over, I’ll start the engine, shut the door.” The song’s melody and structure give off a Nirvana vibe, with an ever-changing tempo that goes from chugging riffs of gnarly guitars to aggressive stop-start chords. Caleb’s plaintive vocals are wonderful, and I like how they rise with emotion along with the guitar notes. It all makes for a fascinating listen, and is one of my favorite tracks on the album.

A Great Fire” beautifully showcases the guys’ skill at writing complex melodies and using rich instrumentation to create an interesting soundscape that continually evolves and surprises our senses. The track opens with a strong thumping drumbeat and ominous synths, creating a mesmerizing backdrop for Clayton’s rather mournful vocals as he sings of far-off cosmic storms, possibly symbolizing unrest or even the end of the world. Gradually, guitar, bass and piano enter the mix, then everything ramps up in the chorus with jagged riffs and crashing cymbals as Clayton launches into an impassioned wail: “The pores of my skin are dripping acid. The dogs are fighting, the snakes are biting. The back of my eyelids explode with lightning!” It’s a fantastic song.

The lead single “Milk” was released on August 15th, along with a surreal and vividly colorful video. It’s a terrific grunge song, featuring a torrent of gnarly riffs set to a powerful driving beat. Caleb explained that the lyrics speak of someone bogged down in a sea of ego-driven minutiae while the the rest of the world keeps on moving forward: “Near the belly digesting away. Far away, and deep inside, visions of hell. Paralyzed from the food that has yet to metabolize. And it’s been so long. And the world moved on.

The guys take a melodic turn on the captivating “Elephant“, my absolute favorite track on the album. The lush mix of chiming and twangy guitars are drop-dead gorgeous, as are Clayton’s heartfelt vocals that express a deep vulnerability. At 2:22 minutes, a beguiling flute enters, giving the song a momentary Celtic vibe. “Spine” veers into folk-rock territory, but still retains a grunge sensibility thanks to the strong guitar work, and once again the guys’ vocal harmonies are really impressive. And speaking of strong guitar work, the guys dazzle us with their mind-blowing guitar skills on the trippy psychedelic gem “Shapeshifter“. We’ve barely had a chance to catch our breath before they return to hammer us with exuberant jangly riffs, deep, buzzing bass and frantic beats on the hard-driving banger “Papercuts“.

The title track “Clowder“is an intriguing song with fuzzy, reverb-soaked guitars and tumultuous percussion. Caleb explained the song’s meaning: “The song ‘Clowder’ is based on an old children’s book called ‘Millions of Cats’. It’s about a guy who goes out looking for a single cat and ends up being followed home by billions of them. We enjoy simple surreal imagery like that. The story ends up being about the destructive power of pride and the importance of being humble. That kind of suppression of ego is something Clayton and I aspire to and I think its a theme that pops up in a lot of our writing.” The song opens with sounds of Caleb whispering “Don’t bother me, and I won’t bother you“, then the music intensifies as Clayton’s vocals take a more insistent tone. In time, with guitars wailing and cymbals crashing in the chorus, Clayton emphatically repeats the line “Hundreds. Millions. Thousands. Billions.

Twilight Sleep” is an enchanting track, highlighted by a pleasing acoustic guitar and wonderful sweeping orchestral instrumentation that imparts an almost ethereal quality. The little piano riff in the chorus is especially good, and nicely complements Caleb and Clayton’s fervent vocal harmonies. Guest musicians on this track included violinist Ryan Young of Trampled By Turtles and cellist Hilary James of We Are The Willows. At the very end of the track, we hear Ryan Young state “I played one wrong note”, though it all sounded pretty damn perfect to my ears. The album closes with “Asleep On A Plane“, a brief but sweet love song. The music consists only of a resonant jangly guitar and bass, but combined with Caleb’s earnest vocals, the song packs quite an emotional punch.

I must admit that many of these songs took a couple of listens for me to fully connect with them, but once I did, I came to realize that Clowder is a brilliant and stunning album. Unlike a lot of pop and classic rock, with their catchy hooks and melodies that quickly bore into our brains, modern and experimental rock music requires us to really listen to hear and appreciate all the little nuances of the more complex melodies, innovative instrumentation, and somewhat abstract lyrics that Whale House have so cleverly written. If you’re willing to expend the time and effort to dig deep into their music, you will find a lot to enjoy on Clowder.

Their Record Release Party will take place Saturday SEP 14 at Brewery Nønic, Menomonie, Wisconsin

Connect with Whale House:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play

Top 30 Songs for August 25-31, 2019

1. DOIN’ TIME – Lana Del Rey (1)
2. FALLING WITH STYLE – Heist At Five (3)
3. COMING UP FOR AIR – Mars Motel (4)
4. RUBBING SHOULDERS WITH THE DEVIL – Revolvers (5)
5. WHEN AM I GONNA LOSE YOU – Local Natives (6)
6. BAD GUY – Billie Eilish (2)
7. UNDER THE COLD LIGHT OF THE MOON – Crystal Cities (9)
8. ALLIGATOR – Of Monsters and Men (8)
9. 3 NIGHTS – Dominic Fike (10)
10. GO – The Black Keys (11)
11. CRINGE – Matt Maeson (13)
12. SOCIAL CUES – Cage the Elephant (16)
13. I SEE YOU – MISSIO (7)
14. THE HYPE – twenty one pilots (20)
15. FOUR WINDS – Unquiet Nights (17)
16. RAGGED TOWN – Second Player Score (18)
17. THIS LIFE – Vampire Weekend (19)
18. HERE WE GO – Ben Priory & Charlie Pereira (12)
19. BLOW – Ed Sheeran, Chris Stapleton & Bruno Mars (21)
20. BROTHERS – Harroland (22)
21. HEAT OF THE SUMMER – Young the Giant (23)
22. MISSED CONNECTION – The Head and the Heart (14)
23. ROOM TO BREATHE – Made of Eyes (15)
24. GOOD THINGS FALL APART – ILLENIUM with John Bellion (26)
25. GOODBYES – Post Malone featuring Young Thug (27)
26. THE MIDDLE – Agency Panic (29)
27. SECRETS – The Million Reasons (30)
28. OLD MAN’S WAR – Roadkeeper (24)
29. HELP ME STRANGER – The Raconteurs (25)
30. WHY DID YOU RUN? – Judah & the Lion (N)

New Song of the Week: ELEPHANT GUN RIOT – “Man Down”

Elephant Gun Riot Man Down

Elephant Gun Riot (is that not a great band name or what!) is a female-fronted modern rock band based in Spokane, Washington. Formed in 2013, the five-piece is made up of vocalist Caitlin Rose, guitarists and brothers Zach Wirchak and Sean Ciolli, bassist Patrick Rooks, and drummer Mike Lowe. They released their debut EP Sic Infit in 2014, and followed with their self-title album Elephant Gun Riot in 2016. Since then, they’ve release two more EPs and several singles, including a face-melting cover of Billie Eilish’s “You Should See Me in a Crown”. Now they’re back with “Man Down“, their first original single of 2019 and my selection for New Song of the Week.

It’s a banger of a tune, featuring the band’s signature sweeping melodies and roiling riffs of gnarly guitars, driven hard by an explosive rhythm section. Wirchak and Ciolli’s intricate, layered guitar work is impressive, running the gamut from delicate chiming notes to some serious shredding, and everything in between. Rooks lays down a crushing bass line while Lowe pounds his drum kit like a banshee. And then there’s Rose, who has a beautiful, yet incredibly powerful vocal style that pairs perfectly with their hard-rocking sound. Here, she raises goosebumps with her raw, impassioned vocals as she rails against another’s deceit and betrayal,”The truth will find you out. So long now. You best get out of town. Long gone (Man down).” Listen and see for yourself:

Connect with Elephant Gun Riot:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play

IAMWARFACE – Album Review: “Year of the Dragon”

I’ve stated it before, and will say it again – British electro-rock band IAMWARFACE can do no wrong when it comes to making music. From the moment I first heard their debut single “Say My Name” in 2016 – which I likened to being hit by an atomic blast – I’ve been a huge fan. Their aggressive name is a fitting metaphor for their bombastic, groove-based sound, and in the three years since their debut, they’ve continued to deliver one incredible song after another. Three of their four singles: “Say My Name”, “Closer” and “Fear the Future” (all of which I’ve reviewed) have reached #1 on my Weekly Top 30 chart, with “Closer” finishing in the top 10 of my Top 100 Songs of 2018. Now, they’re set to finally unleash their first album Year of the Dragon, which drops September 6th. The album contains their first four singles, as well as six new tracks and four remixes.

IAMWARFACE new
Photo by Caitlin Stokes

Based in London and Brighton, England, IAMWARFACE consists of founder and frontman Matt Warneford (songwriting, vocals), Lou Matthews (guitars), Tom Howe (DJ synth), Mike Smith (bass) and Adam Stanley (drums). Influenced by some of their favorite bands and artists such as Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, Kasabian, Muse, Big Black Delta, Nero, Queens of the Stone Age, Tears For Fears, MGMT and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, IAMWARFACE creates music that’s aggressive, melodically complex and always exciting.

The opening track on Year of the DragonSay My Name” certainly embodies those qualities, with an explosive barrage of gnarly guitars, screaming synths and thunderous percussion, driven by a deep, buzzing bassline. Warneford’s fierce, mind-blowing vocals are almost frightening as he wails and shrieks the lyrics. This incredible song still gives me chills three years later!

Next up is the gloriously bombastic kiss-off song “You Don’t Love Me Anymore“, which was their second single. Once again, they live up to their name by delivering a furious onslaught of jangly guitars, heavy bass and smashing drumbeats. It’s loud, in-your-face, and melodically beautiful, and the hard-driving guitar work is fantastic. Warneford’s impassioned vocals are positively chilling as he wails “Whoa oh oh, you were right, you don’t love me anymore!” The cool video shows the band performing the song wearing fluorescent body paint.

To Die For” is one of the new tracks, and I love it! The song immediately hooks us in with an assault of crashing drumbeats and a deep, wobbly bassline, then a mesmerizing spacey synth riff kicks in, creating a mysterious soundscape for Warneford’s marvelous vocals. The music intensifies with tortured guitars and piercing synths in the chorus as he laments “Seems like I’m alive for, something I could die for.

Fear the Future” was their most recent single, released this past February, and one of their best songs. The biting lyrics speak to the banal music and entertainment, bullshit and fear-mongering being fed to the masses in a pernicious attempt to dumb-down and divide us. Musically, the song features the band’s signature aggressive instrumentation and massive, driving rhythms, making for a incredibly powerful and exhilarating song that slams us against the wall. The disturbing video brilliantly brings the dark lyrics to life.

Now we get to what I consider to be their greatest song, the monumental and gorgeous “Closer“. Wow, this song is a masterpiece! It opens with a mysterious throbbing synth chord that slowly builds into a stunning and dramatic soundscape that envelops us as Warneford laments of an obsessive and destructive relationship. The song then erupts into a maelstrom of tortured wailing synths, grimy guitars, buzz-saw bass, and explosive percussion, punctuated by almost violently crashing cymbals that emphasize the feelings of desolation expressed in the bitter lyrics. But then, Warneford fervently sings that their love affair that now lies in tatters might still be salvageable: “Feel I’m walking on shattered glass. This romance just has to end, to reset, erase, begin again. And I’ll move, move closer. Yes I’ll move closer to you.” The spooky, strangely beautiful video shows a woman in a shabby gossamer dress dancing in a filthy abandoned warehouse as Warneford sings the song.

From this point on, all the tracks are new to us, and all of them superb. The rousing “Get So High” seems to channel a bit of MGMT with its trippy and melodic synth-driven grooves and chugging riffs of gnarly guitars. “Atomic White Gold” brings a pulsating mix of chiming and reverb-drenched fuzzy guitars, swirling synths and blasting drumbeats, wrapped in a dark, captivating melody. Smith’s deep, throbbing bass is a highlight here, giving the track incredible depth. Warneford’s vocals soar as he sings “Atomic white gold. Just like the real thing.” The extended wailing guitar run in the outro is awesome, sounding like a cross between an air-raid siren and incoming bombs.

Bleed Out” starts off with heavy, distorted reverb, then a driving punk rock beat kicks in, compelling us to take to the dance floor. Matthew’s furious riffs and Stanley’s pummeling drumbeats are so fucking good! I really love songs with this kind of hard-driving beat. At the three-minute mark, the tempo slows as Howe’s throbbing industrial synths take over, giving the song a dark, intense vibe that sounds like something Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails could have cooked up together. The track ends with the same heavy, distorted reverb it began with.

IAMWARFACE continue delivering the goods with the hard-hitting “Red Queen“. With a nod to Queens of the Stone Age, the chugging riffs of grimy guitars and massive driving rhythms really get our blood pumping. Matthews is an amazing guitarist, and his work here is nothing short of phenomenal. Warneford laments about his low status in the eyes and heart of the woman he desires: “You are the red queen. I am the lone dog. I would do anything to win back your heart. You are something, I am nothing to you.

Trigons” is a long (7:13 minutes) mostly instrumental track that really showcases this band’s impressive musicianship. Each member is allowed to shine, as the guitars, bass, synths and percussion are distinct, yet meld together beautifully to create a mesmerizing psychedelic fantasia. Warneford’s soaring vocals are sparse, entering only in the latter part of the track, but are powerfully compelling as always.

The Paris Alexander remix of “Closer” is particularly stunning, giving a the song a different, somewhat lighter feel through a captivating dance beat and dreamy, ethereal synths. Alexander is a music producer and composer, and has collaborated with Antipole, a Norwegian post punk band I’ve previously written about on this blog.

Year of the Dragon is a phenomenal album that feels almost like a greatest hits compilation, as every single track is outstanding. I loved IAMWARFACE before, and love them even more after hearing this album. Year of the Dragon drops September 6th, but you can pre-order it here.

Track Listing:
1. SAY MY NAME
2. YOU DON’T LOVE ME ANYMORE
3. TO DIE FOR
4. FEAR THE FUTURE
5. CLOSER
6. GET SO HIGH
7. ATOMIC WHITE GOLD
8. BLEED OUT
9. RED QUEEN
10. TRIGONS
11. SAY MY NAME (PAUL PARSONS REMIX)
12. CLOSER (PARIS ALEXANDER REMIX)
13. YOU DON’T LOVE ME ANYMORE (CROSSFLOW REMIX)
14. CLOSER (CONTROL FREAK REMIX)

Catch IAMWARFACE at one of these upcoming shows:

30 August 2019 – Bournemouth, UK (with The Kut, HAWXX, Black Tree Vultures)
7 September 2019- Twickenham, UK (with How To Live, Nick Swettenham)
26 September 2019- London, UK (with The Insect, Graves)
17 November 2019 – Brighton, UK (with Legpuppy, Androids In The Mist)

Connect with IAMWARFACE:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play

Concert Review – Young the Giant, Fitz and the Tantrums & COIN at the LA Forum

I don’t attend all that many concerts, as I live in a desert – both literally and culturally. Despite the fact I live in the Coachella Valley – home to one of the most important music festivals on the planet – in order to see most musical acts under the age of 60, I must travel to Los Angeles. So, when I do see a concert, it’s a pretty big deal for me. On Saturday, August 10, I made the two and a half hour drive to West Los Angeles to see a fantastic lineup of bands at the historic Forum. (Former home of the L.A. Lakers, the Forum opened in 1967 but is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places, due to its groundbreaking engineering and structural design.)

It was a great double bill consisting of Young the Giant and Fitz and the Tantrums, with COIN opening. I’d long wanted to see Fitz and the Tantrums in concert, but had never gotten around to it, so when I saw they were performing with another of my favorites Young the Giant, I wasted no time getting tickets. The Forum seats approximately 17,500, and this show appeared to be nearly sold out.

LA Forum
The Los Angeles Forum

The concert started promptly at 7:00 pm when COIN took to the stage and immediately got the audience revved up with their high-energy alternative pop/rock. I wasn’t very familiar with their music, but when I saw in advance they were the opening act, I checked out several of their songs and really liked their sound. Based in Nashville, COIN formed in 2012, and currently consists of Chase Lawrence on lead vocals & synthesizers, Ryan Winnen on drums, and Joe Memmel on lead guitar & backing vocals. Since 2018, they’ve been joined on their tours by bassist Matt Martin.

The stage was set up with a series of vertical panels upon which various graphics and light displays were projected for all three acts. COIN’s visuals were simple, consisting only of the word “@coin” that would appear one line at a time on five of the panels, as if repeatedly typed on a keyboard and displayed on a computer screen. Once all five panels were filled with @coin, the words would disappear, then the process was repeated over and over. It was kind of interesting at first, but eventually grew rather tiresome.

COIN-Forum
COIN

COIN’s music and performance, however, were anything but, as their catchy, upbeat music and lively on-stage personas were quite entertaining, especially their animated front man Chase Lawrence, who bounded about the stage as he sang. They started their set with their dance-pop hit “Growing Pains”, then followed with “Simple Romance”, “Boyfriend”, and their latest single “Crash My Car” – all terrific songs. Lawrence engaged the audience a bit between songs and they continued with “Cemetery”, “I Want it All” and their big hit “Talk Too Much”, finally ending with “Fingers Crossed”. Here’s their exuberant performance of “Boyfriend” that I managed to film most of:

After a brief intermission, Fitz and the Tantrums made their entrance onto the stage to thunderous applause, and quickly got the crowd’s blood pumping with the foot-stomping “Get Right Back”, one of the tracks from their third self-titled album Fitz and the Tantrums. Before I get into their performance, I’ll provide a bit of background and personal perspective.

Fitz & the Tantrums-Forum
Fitz and the Tantrums

The Los Angeles-based band consists of front man/vocalist Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick, the lovely and talented Noelle Scaggs (vocals & percussion), saxophonist extraordinaire James King, as well as Joseph Karnes (bass), Jeremy Ruzumna (keyboards), and John Wicks (drums). They formed in 2008, but the first time I learned about them was in late summer 2013, when I heard their fantastic synth-pop ear worm “Out of My League”. I quickly fell head over heels in love with it, becoming an instant fan of theirs, and caught myself up on their back catalog of songs that were included on their debut album Pickin’ Up the Pieces, as well as purchasing their second album More Than Just a Dream, which I played nearly to death for the next several months.

Their early songs were described as neo soul, somewhat of a modern twist on the classic Motown sound, but with indie and jazz overtones that gave their music a distinctive sound. A particularly noteworthy aspect of their music is that they have no guitarist! Their sound took on more of a pop sensibility on More Than Just a Dream, generating a little backlash from some of their earliest die-hard fans. But overall, it’s an outstanding album containing some great songs like “Out of My League” and “The Walker”, both of which reached #1 on the Billboard Alternative Chart, as well as some other standouts like the soulful “6am” and “Break the Walls”, both of which prominently feature Noelle’s wonderful vocals.

In early 2016, they released “Hand Clap”, the lead single from their self-titled third album, and I was immediately underwhelmed. The song was too poppy and formula for my taste, and I was somewhat disappointed in the new direction their sound was taking. Also, Noelle’s vocals were not being utilized nearly enough. My feelings about the third album are mixed, but there are a few gems like the aforementioned “Get Right Back” and “Burn It Down”. I’ve softened a bit on “Hand Clap”, as it’s so damned catchy, but I still think it’s a mediocre song. OK, now back to the show!

Fitz and the Tantrums kept the energy flowing as they launched into the hard-rocking “Spark” from More Than Just a Dream, then sang one of their earliest songs “Don’t Gotta Work it Out”, which they followed with “Out of My League”, still one of my personal favorites. In between songs, Fitz was very engaging, sharing his thoughts and providing tidbits of background about the band and the songs they performed. He’s now 49 years old, but exudes a more youthful demeanor on stage.

Fitz & the Tantrums
Fitz and the Tantrums

The vertical panels that previously displayed @coin during their set now displayed colorful, rapidly-changing imagery and graphics. Fitz and the Tantrums played for more than an hour, performing 18 songs, including crowd favorite “Moneygrabber”, five from More Than Just a Dream, five from Fitz and the Tantrums, and six from their upcoming fourth album All the Feels, due out in September. One of the tracks they performed from that album was the lead single “123456”, which I didn’t much care for when I first heard it, but it sounded better live. In fact, I found that many of their more recent songs sounded much better live, which is perhaps a testament to their engaging on-stage personalities and musicality. At the very least, those attributes certainly make for a highly entertaining and enjoyable live performance, and I loved every second of theirs!

They closed with a rousing performance of the deliriously catchy “The Walker”. I loved how the home town crowd cheered when Fitz sang the line “I wake up to the City of Angels“.

The intermission following Fitz and the Tantrums’ performance was longer, giving us ample time to use the restroom, get some obscenely overpriced adult beverages, and for our excitement to build in anticipation of seeing the headliners Young the Giant. When they finally appeared on stage, the crowd roared and cheered with delight. They opened their set with “Oblivion” from their fourth and most recent album Mirror Master, then performed one of my favorites “Something to Believe In”, from their critically acclaimed 2016 third album Home of the Strange. Next up was their current single “Heat of the Summer”, another terrific song from Mirror Master.

Young the Giant
Young the Giant

Young the Giant started out in 2004 as a band called The Jakes, with two of the current founding members guitarist Jacob Tilley and vocalist Sameer Gadhia, when they were high school students in Irvine, California. They changed their name in 2010 to Young the Giant while recording their debut album of the same name, and have never looked back. In addition to Tilley and Gadhia, the current lineup includes Eric Cannata (guitar), Payam Doostzadeh (bass), and Francois Comtois (drums). They’re an amazing and talented collective of musicians with a totally unique sound unlike no other, thanks to their exquisite instrumentation and also Gadhia’s gorgeous and distinctive vocal style.

He’s also a strikingly handsome man, with a charismatic on-stage persona. His athletic and sometimes even flamboyant body movements were at times quirky, but always riveting. He appeared on stage wearing a long saffron-colored jacket over dark trousers, and danced about the stage, his jacket flowing about him as he sang. They continued with the beautiful track “Apartment” from their first album Young the Giant, then followed with four tracks from Home of the Strange – “Amerika”, “Nothing’s Over”, “Home of the Strange” and “Titus Was Born”. Next up was the lovely “Firelight” from Mind Over Matter, followed by one of their signature songs and crowd favorite “Cough Syrup”.

They performed three more songs, then said ‘Goodnight’ and walked off stage. They still had not performed some of their biggest hits, so I knew (hoped) they’d return for an encore. They soon reappeared, Gadhia now wearing a sparkly dark blue cape as they sang the song I’d been dying to hear them perform, the beautiful “Superposition.” They followed with the bouncy dance number “Tightrope”, then the sexy “Silvertongue” before closing their set with an electrifying performance of their hard-hitting first single “My Body”, at which point the crowd went wild.

I found it interesting that they performed six songs from each of their two most recent albums, but only three from Young the Giant and two from Mind Over Matter. I was a little disappointed they didn’t perform one of my favorite songs of theirs, the hard-rocking “It’s About Time”. That said, I loved hearing all the songs they did perform, and enjoyed their set immensely. In fact, I love them and their music even more after seeing them live, which is something I think most, if not all, of us feel when seeing artists and bands we like in concert. It’s a special thing to see our favorite artists and bands play their music live, giving us a greater connection to them and their music.

JADED JANE – Single Review: “Trapped”

Jaded Jane3

This past April, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing and writing about the remarkably talented and undeniably charismatic Olsson brothers Axel and Adam who call themselves Jaded Jane. (You can read my article and interview with Axel Jane here.) Originally from Gothenburg, Sweden, but now split between Gothenburg and Glasgow, Jaded Jane seeks to celebrate humanity and diversity through their music, writing compelling songs with positive, life-affirming lyrics. Drawing upon a wide range of influences such as pop, rock, soul, R&B and hip-hop, they create beautiful, piano-driven melodies and lush soundscapes. Since 2015 they’ve produced four outstanding albums, and are now recording their fifth, to be titled “117″ and due out in October.

They’ve just released the first single from the album, a gorgeous, contemplative song called “Trapped“. The deeply moving song was written by Axel Jane Olsson and recorded by Åke Linton. Axel played the beautiful piano melody, and the haunting cello was played by David Bukovinszky, with lovely string arrangements by Mattias Bylund and Nils Petter Ankarlund.

Axel explains that the song “is about feeling trapped in life, trapped in your circumstances, trapped in a loop of monotony.” Though he laments about feeling lost to the point of no longer recognizing who he really is, he retains a glimmer of hope that his life will get better through faith and love. His smooth, beautiful vocals are heartfelt as he sings:

Trapped in a loop I can’t get out
Stuck in a dream I had a long time ago
What do I really want to do
Now is the only time worth living for

Ah, I am trapped in a loop.
Ah. Am I stuck in a dream, that I had a long time ago

Wrapped up in my identity
Who am I, I no longer know, who I am
Lost my sense of reality
Talking to the man in the mirror now
Cause I don’t know, who I am anymore
Lift me up high where I belong
Fill me up with faith, hope & love again.

The stunning video for “Trapped” was filmed on the streets of Glasgow, and shows the strikingly handsome Axel, who has a dancer’s physique, gracefully moving to the music in different settings.

Connect with Jaded Jane:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase on iTunes / Google Play

New Song of the Week: DRAWING ON SCARS – “Rewrite”

Drawing on Scars Rewrite

I just reviewed a song titled “Under These Scars”, and now turn my attention to Drawing on Scars, an online alternative rock music project based in Atlanta, Georgia. The creative brainchild of songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Will Thacker, Drawing on Scars seeks to collaborate with guest vocalists from across the U.S. in the creation of unique, ever-changing music. Generally, Thacker writes the music and lyrics, which the different vocalists then interpret in their own distinct ways, keeping Drawing on Scars’ repertoire sounding fresh and delivering the unexpected.

Formed in 2012, the project produced an EP featuring seven artists, then went on hiatus in 2017, during which time Thacker formed the band Fieldcrest. He resurrected Drawing on Scars in early 2019, and since March has released four singles, the latest of which is “Rewrite“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.

The song features vocals by Jena Jones, who is also vocalist for Fieldcrest (I reviewed their EP Canvas last October.) The song has an Evanescence feel, not only because of the dark, complex melody and powerful instrumentation, but also because Jones’ strong, resonant vocals remind me of Amy Lee’s. Thacker’s a skilled guitarist, and his work really shines here as he dazzles our ears with crushing riffs of grimy guitars and heavy bass. The spooky synths and thunderous percussion are pretty fantastic too, and combined with the intense guitars, create a massive backdrop for Jones’ mesmerizing vocals. 

The lyrics seem to speak about someone suffering from mental illness or an emotional breakdown, and their desperate plea for help and support in getting their life together. Jones’ emotion-filled vocals beautifully convey the anguish expressed in the powerful lyrics:

I need you here babysitting my thoughts
I can’t control them, they’ll tear me apart
There’s just little things that go straight for my heart
It makes me sick

I hope I can keep control and not let myself down
But I’m a fake, how much can you take
Can’t you see that I’m afraid

Distorted perception of who I am
Help me rewrite it, begin again
This war going on inside of my head

I don’t know how to fix myself
The words that kill me are my own
Oh, I’m the harshest critic I know

Connect with Drawing on Scars: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / YouTube
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play / cdbaby

FALLING INTO RED – Single Review: “Under These Scars”

I’ve been following hard rock band Falling into Red for a while now, and have always enjoyed their aggressive, badass music. Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the band was formed in 2016 by the husband and wife team of Scott (vocals, guitar) and Amy Gainar (vocals, piano/synth). Though they had previously worked with other musicians and in other projects, they wanted to combine their love of heavy guitar-based rock/metal, the hi-tech sound of electronica, the cinematic quality of modern film scores, and powerful melodies to create their own brand of hard-hitting rock music. Soon they were joined by Scott’s brother Ray Gainar on bass, and Dave Miklos on drums. They released their first single “Haunt Me” in late 2016, then followed with several more singles over the next two years, finally releasing their debut self-titled album Falling Into Red in early 2019.

Now they’re back with an exciting new single “Under These Scars“, and I think it’s their best song yet. I loved it the moment I first heard it. The song features Falling Into Red’s signature blistering riffs, hard-driving basslines, thunderous percussion and soaring vocal harmonies. But this time, they’re joined by guest vocalist Dev, who adds some fantastic rap verses to the mix, making for an incredibly powerful and exhilarating track. I love when rock and hip hop collide, which is what made the music of Nu-metal bands like Linkin Park, Rage Against the Machine and Limp Bizkit so damn good.

First off, Scott’s raging guitars are mind-blowing, and together with Ray’s relentless driving bass and Dave’s speaker-blowing drums, create a bombastic wall of sound that’s freaking awesome. Second, Scott’s also a great vocalist, and the interplay between his impassioned vocals, Amy’s softer harmonies, and Dev’s rapping is nothing short of spectacular. As Dev sings in one of his verses “When the true colors show, it sends chills to the bone”, and man, I am covered with them!

Lyrically, the song speaks to how we need to learn from our mistakes and work through them to try and become a stronger person. The band stated in on Twitter:  “You make mistakes and they run deep. You need to ask for help…but you don’t. If you make it through, you’ll be stronger than ever… IF you make it through. Until then, you hide Under These Scars.”

“Under These Scars” is a magnificent song, and already among my favorites of 2019. It’s the lead single from their forthcoming second album, and I can’t wait to hear more from this talented band.

Connect with Falling Into Red: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Google Play Amazon

BLACK BEAR KISS – Single Review: “I Wanna Know”

I Wanna Know

British alternative garage-rock band Black Bear Kiss have been on a creative tear since the release of their terrific debut single “Hooks” in April 2018. With their exciting, guitar-driven music, strong charisma and rowdy live performances, the talented five-piece have built a loyal following in their home base of the West Midlands/Shropshire region of England and beyond – even out here in the Coachella Valley of Southern California!

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Comprised of Chris Leech on lead vocals, Colin Haden on lead guitar, Rob Jones on rhythm guitar, Rich Sach on bass, and Chris Bagnall on drums, Black Bear Kiss have been busy playing gigs and putting out a series of great singles, as well as an EP Fighting Our Corner, which they released this past March. A favorite of this blog, I’ve previously reviewed three of their singles (which you can read by clicking on the links under “Related” at the bottom of this post). Now the prolific band makes a fourth appearance with their latest single “I Wanna Know“, which dropped on August 9th.

The song gets our blood pumping right from the get-go as Haden and Jones lay down chugging riffs of gnarly quitars over Sach’s heavy, buzzing bass line. These guys play as a tight unit, propelling the song forward with their hard-driving rock’n’roll rhythms while Bagnall pounds out the beat. The layered guitars are fantastic, with aggressive, swirling riffs that create an exhilarating backdrop for Leech’s warm, earnest vocals which, along with the stellar guitar work, are a major component of Black Bear Kiss’s outstanding sound.

With regard to the meaning of the lyrics, Leech explained that the song is “about playing live and the buzz that comes from it – plus relying on your bandmates”: “Come a little closer, the room is on fire. But I’m alright, you’re gonna be fine. Ah, this is our time. I wanna know, just how much you’re meaning this. Lookin’ around, can I rely on you? Guided by stars. Wanna feel it. Wanna feel it all. Guided by stars. Take the other way, take the other way home.

“I Wanna Know” is a great tune, and yet another in a string of solid singles by Black Bear Kiss. I hope they’ll continue to strike gold with many more!

Connect with Black Bear Kiss:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their songs on  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes cdbaby